Farmers have one of the hardest jobs in the world; maintaining a farm. What makes this job so difficult is that it requires a lot of attention and since most farms cover hundreds of acres, it is impossible to monitor each and every square foot of the farm. Somewhere, a fungus could be forming or the crop might need fertilizer at a specific area. Even if it was possible to walk through every square foot of farm, one wouldn’t still be able to tell which healthy-looking plant is soon going to become ill. However, if it was possible to give each and every square foot of farm exactly what it needs, and at the proper time, two major things would happen; farmers would get a significantly larger crop field, and use a lot less input (water, fungicide, fertilizer, pesticide). What this means is that it would bring less cost to both farmers and the environment.
This is where drones (yes drones! The exciting, unmanned planes that fly around) come in. Researchers say drones can do this for farms, they fly over the fields and collect crucial data that the human eye is unable to see. PrecisionHawk is a company that is working hard to implement this idea. The president, Ernest Earon, sees agriculture as the best applications for drones. “Agriculture is a very sophisticated industry and farmers are very data hungry — and they have not been well served, historically, in providing that data. They need on-demand data, they need it very high resolution and they need it often,” he says.
The company’s vehicle is called the “Lancaster”. It weighs three pounds and is three feet long. To launch it, it needs to be thrown in the air and then can be used with many different imaging sensors to collects field data that the human eye can see and not see. The technology can focus on specific problems and information. The data the drone picks up is uploaded to the cloud and then PrecisionHawk processes it. Data processing is charged by the company at $0.10 per acre, $0.20 per acre for a year of data. Researchers are giving the Lancaster system great reviews. They’ve praised the accuracy, information, pictures and overall performance. The average farm size in the U.S. is 418 acres, so the PrecisionHawk system would be greatly beneficial for most farmers.
The drones seem to be just what farmers needed, a robot that can do the stuff they can’t. Not only will it save money, but it will also reduce the use of pesticide and herbicide by 40% and pesticide by 50%! That’s great for farmers and the environment. Expect many big farmers to look into this new concept and it’s safe to say that drones will be spotted in the skies more often.